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10th May 2017

Do what you love for a living: Deirdre and Karen, Wild Oats

Do you dream of turning your passion into a business?

The road can be long and fraught with challenges, but with the right advice and a hefty helping of effort and drive, you too can do what you love for a living.

Deirdre Meany and Karen Cottier of Wild Oats Soap have done just that. It all started when Karen spotted a niche in the market for natural, affordable luxury products.

Working with Flahavan’s Organic Oats – made locally in Co. Waterford, the pair built a gorgeous range of gift boxes, a Tender range designed for people with extremely sensitive skin and another collection for mamas and babies to enjoy together.

Three years in, their products are a hit, with stockists all over the country.

Here’s what they learned along the way:

If you are planning to start a business you should know that it is going to take up much more of your time and energy than you ever think it is. Owning your own business is not just time consuming, it is all-consuming and it can be hard to switch off at times.

When I started Wild Oats three years ago, I’d always loved beautiful scent but I couldn’t find easily available, naturally scented cleansing and moisturising products that could be used daily on my family’s sensitive skin.

The combination of Deirdre’s background in research science and my marketing experience; coupled with my interest in natural remedies and local botanicals, meant that we had a great opportunity to come up with an affordable, natural, family skincare range, which would be available to everyone.

Running our own business is the most satisfying job either of us have had. We are both responsible for every aspect of our products, from concept to production, from packaging design to delivery. It can be stressful at times – but we are very proud of what we have produced.

We did the research and the product development and knew we had a product that people liked. Getting a large initial order from a large retailer was the turning point that allowed us to go from a kitchen-top business to a grown-up commercial operation.

We had worked very hard to make the best products possible, and the reaction was so positive that we never really thought about it not working out, we were too busy making soap and bath milk!

Everyone who tried our products really loved them and we had great support from retailers and consumers. We also had a huge amount of help from our Local Enterprise Office. The team in Waterford LEO really got behind us and provided us with financial and mentoring support when we needed it.

Our advice? Do loads of research with consumers, retailers and users and get professional help and advice to ensure you have realistic financial plans.

Make contact with networking groups and your LEO, and make sure you have a professional support circle who can advise you when needed. Know your numbers.

Keep a firm eye on your cash flow. If you are passionate about your product and you have identified a need for it in the market, then take a deep breath and just go for it!